Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness | The Catch Phrase That’s Not Catching On

"I am tired of acting as though I have something to hide." Kay Redfield Jamison
“I am tired of acting as though I have something to hide.” Kay Redfield Jamison

A few posts back, I wrote about the goals for Stacy’s Flutterings blog, and near the end of the post I admitted my fear of stigma. It’s true. I am being honest when I say that I’m fearful of what others might think of the blog and my mission, and it’s in large part due to stigma. It seems it’s safer to hide emotions and thoughts rather than to be open and honest. By being open, I’m opening the door for others to verbally slay me with their opinions. It’s interesting to me that with all the advocating that’s occurring, and that seems so popular right now, that erasing the stigma of mental illness seems to be the catch phrase that’s not catching on. If it were, I don’t think I’d be as wary of being me.

How do I know that erasing the stigma of mental illness isn’t catching on? There are many examples in the media, especially revolving around the use of language. Time and time again, I see the word “commit” used in reference to suicide. It just so happens that last week I saw, yet again, the word commit in the news. Below you will find a copy of an email message that I sent to Elite Daily Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015, in reference to such stigmatizing language.

Letter to Elite Daily

I admire and respect Elite Daily! I look forward to seeing your newest posts on Facebook.

I just wanted to stop by and share, as Stacy’s Flutterings Facebook Page Manager, the word “commit” in regard to the sad news that Zach Efron’s look-alike has died, continues the stigma of mental illness. Sadly, he died by suicide. He didn’t commit suicide. Would you consider updating this news story?

Thank you for taking the time to read this message. I continue to look forward to future Elite Daily news.

Stacy King                                                                                          

And Where Did the Email Get Me?

My email message to Elite Daily got me nowhere. Since I’m being honest, let me ask you (be honest!), have you seen the word “commit” in the news pertaining to suicide? I see this type of language repeatedly, and what is being said, when we use the word commit, is that suicide is a crime. It isn’t. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is actually the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. This is tragic, especially since it’s preventable. Of course suicide prevention is another topic I’ll blog about in the future, but for now, I’m left questioning, “How can we begin to erase the stigma of mental illness if no one is listening?” and “Are efforts to erase stigma being ignored?”

Why It’s so Important That We Pay Attention to Efforts Being Made to Erase the Stigma

  • In order to erase the stigma we must learn what stigma is and what is considered stigmatizing. Do you know what stigma is? Can you give me an example?
  • We can learn healthier methods of communication. For example, have you heard someone say, “I’m so OCD.” That’s stigmatizing language. There are individuals living with this oftentimes crippling condition. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Can you give me an example of what we could say differently?
  • We can save lives. For example, knowing that it’s consider the norm to call and/or text for help can save lives. How can you express to your loved ones that asking for help is okay? How can we make this the norm?
  • Erasing the stigma can lead to proper diagnosis. When we erase the stigma, individuals will no longer feel like they have to hide their illnesses.
  • No stigma leads to healthier self esteem. If I can just be me, and it’s encouraged, then I don’t have to carry around the weight of trying to fit someone else’s mold.
  • We can create healthier environments for ourselves and our loved ones by applying what we learn about stigma such as the fact that living with a mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable being around others who use stigmatizing language. Stigma creates an invisible barrier. Do you agree?
  • Ridding ourselves of stigma can lead to the creation of dialogue. If I feel comfortable talking with you about anything, you can bet that I will talk. If I feel at all uncomfortable, I’ll shut down. Does this happen to you as well?
  • Erasing the stigma, that is so embedded in the fabric of our society, will benefit our children.

Imagine a world free of stigma. It’s sounds healthy doesn’t it? We have the power to create it right now. Why wait any longer? If you’d like more information about how to erase the stigma, check out Bring Change 2 Mind. Lastly, listen to yourself when you talk to others. What words do you hear escape your mouth when you talk? Do you hear stigmatizing language? You have the power to change the way you talk. You are worth it and so are your loved ones! Let’s do this one word at a time.

Growing stronger…